SpaceX aims to fund missions to Mars by offering broadband internet service worldwide, its network is called Starlink. The rocket company has been actively deploying internet-beaming Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. So far, it has successfully deployed 480 satellites out of the 12,000 that will make up the constellation. SpaceX officials stated the network will benefit rural areas, where internet connectivity is unreliable or non-existent.
During a recent ‘Ask Me Anything’ discussion via Reddit, SpaceX software engineers revealed details about Starlink satellites. They shared the satellites are getting software updates on a weekly basis and are already generating 5 trillion bytes of data daily!
SpaceX Enginner Matt Monson leads Starlink software development, he shared SpaceX uses the Linux operating system – “Each launch of 60 satellites contains more than 4,000 Linux computers,” Monson said. “The constellation has more than 30,000 Linux nodes (and more than 6,000 microcontrollers) in space right now. And because we share a lot of our Linux platform infrastructure with Falcon and Dragon, they get the benefit of our more than 180 vehicle-years of on-orbit test time.”
This means there are currently around 32,000 Linux computers in space! SpaceX is “currently generating more than 5TB [5 trillion bytes] a day of data” for Starlink.
“We’ve had many instances where a satellite on orbit had a failure we’d never even conceived of before, but was able to keep itself safe long enough for us to debug it, figure out a fix or a workaround, and push up a software update,” Monson wrote in response to a Reddit question. He also revealed SpaceX is beaming software updates to the Starlink satellites in space approximately once a week, “with a bunch of smaller test deployments happening as well.”
“Doing the detection of problems onboard is one of the best ways to reduce how much telemetry we need to send and store (only send it when it’s interesting). The alerting system we use for this is shared between Starlink and Dragon,” he added.
The Starlink network is currently being tested by the United States Air Force on military platforms. Engineers have hooked Starlink terminals to the cockpit of military aircraft. The Air Force will assess Starlink for 3 years before opting for purchasing the service long-term.
SpaceX aims to roll out service to the public before the end of this year. Initiating with Northern United States and Canada. Customers will receive Starlink’s broadband internet via 19 inch user terminals that look like a “UFO on a stick,” according to company officials. SpaceX earned approval from the Federal Communications Commission to operate 1 million of these user terminals in the United States next year.
The company currently operates the world’s largest satellite constellation in low Earth orbit. The next deployment of 60 Starlink satellites is scheduled for mid-June.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.